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One Crazy Idea: Power to the People (Not the Candidate)

Here’s a crazy idea:

It seems to me this is how we elect people to public office, hopefully at least to some degree, to serve our interests. An individual announces he or she (let’s use she today) is running for public office. She develops policy positions and makes them known though the media, social media, speeches etc. She shows up on TV a lot so we can sit and listen to her. She announces that she will be at a particular location either to give a speech or to answer questions and, essentially, hopes some of us will show up. In her speech we hear what her positions are, and no doubt hear a lot about her family, faith, etc. If we ask her questions, she answers them from within the frame of her positions and beliefs. Her answers also reflect who is asking the question and where it is being asked. Thus the same question can get different answers depending on the race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, economic status and so on of the questioner and the community in which she lives. At a predetermined date she will stop speechifying and sound-biting and ask us to vote and, of course, to vote for her. Some of us will and some of us won’t.

Once in office she may or may not do what she said she would. We expect this because once in office things change, and we know there is very little, or anything at all, we can do about it until the next election. We also know she has been taking money from individuals (who might include us), businesses, corporations and interest groups all of whom have an agenda and expect payback. Again, we know this. It costs a lot of money to run for public office. But we also know that in a conflict between what she said at the town hall on that cold Wednesday night and the desires of that multinational corporation, we are more than likely going to lose out. Though it’s not popular to say, we are paying for a service and those billionaires and corporations can pay a hell of a lot more than we can. Again, we know that sometimes we will lose. That is life. But it is difficult to swallow when we lose most of the time.

Here’s the crazy idea. Let’s say instead, we get together in our communities and decide what we need and want – everything  from the condition of our schools to the bombing the hell out of people we’ve never met on the other side of the world. Through discussion we come up with the policies and actions we want and then we invite the candidate running for the public office in question to meet us, to come to us at a time and place we designate. When she arrives will present our desired policies and positions. After a discussion, that will no doubt include compromising and some changing on our part, we ask her how she will implement the agreed policies. If we have come to a common mind with her, if she answers our questions satisfactorily, and she seems trustworthy (yes, so much of this is about trust), we will contribute to her campaign and vote for her at the election. If later we hear that in the next town over or the next state over or in the next country over, she answered our questions differently, made different kinds of promises, and/or made policy statements contrary to our agreed programme, we will tell her that our donations have stopped and that we will not be voting for her.

If, one the other hand, all goes well and we elect her, but we learn that her actions in office run contrary to our policies and positions, and if she fails in her promise to server our interests, we will recall her and look for another person to represent us (which of course means we need recall legislation that can remove a public servant not because she had sex with the wrong person, but because she is not serving our interests, for whatever reason). However, if she does serve our interests than she will get our full support, financial and political.

I know. It’s a Disney fantasy cartoon. It’s ridiculous to give the power to the people. It’s outlandish to suggest that the candidate is not the dominant player in the democratic drama. It is absurd to expect a public servant to actually serve the people who elected her. And it is beyond comprehension that any politician could be removed from office before the next election for failing the people.  

Sorry! What was I thinking?

Copyright © 2014 Dale Rominger

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